He sat in the corner of the room, a newcomer to our book club. He was quiet, listening to our chatter and banter. Of course when you are new to something, you don't want to say anything first. You need to test the ground. After a while our moderator turned to him with a smile "And what do you think?".
The newcomer raised his eyebrows and gave us all a defiant look.
" First of all, if you had really read the stories you would have seen how inaccurate some of your theories are..." he stated.
" Could you point us to some examples?" continued the moderator pleasantly.
" No. Read the texts and you will know" he retorted. He didn't want to say anything more.
Still you don't give up on trying to engage new people, right?
After a while I turned to him.
"Maybe you would have other ideas of how to interpret the story?" I asked with a smile.
"If I will want to speak, I will" he answered.
I think at that point (the first time I was slightly taken aback and stunned) I might have given a meaningful look to the moderators or even rolled my eyes... Did I? I don't remember. There was definitely a feeling of discomfort, a wall between him and us. I think I even thought of him as plainly rude.
He seemed to imply that were not being serious enough, trying to put the missing pieces of the literary puzzle based on our vague memory. We weren't backing up every argument with a quotation, we were jumping from general impressions to details, we were bringing up literary associations in a very free way. He didn't approve of our mocking tone.
I remembered how I used to feel about the codes, the style of discussion in this club. How at times I do not feel totally comfortable with the Monty-Pyntonish tone. Today I was enjoying it. Have I started to feel at home here?
But then there is that itch, that question whether the newcomer will come again, whether we will be able to continue making efforts to make him welcome and at the same time show that even if we are not perfect readers, we would like some kindness and understanding too...